The Orioles already have Aubrey Huff, but they may have acquired a namesake. Baltimore has acquired former first-round draftee Michael Aubrey from Cleveland in exchange for a player to be named later, giving the Orioles another candidate to play first base in 2010.
Aubrey, the 11th overall selection in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft, has struggled to become the breakout player many people envisioned. He has made steady progress through the Minor Leagues, though, and is batting .292 in 57 games for Triple-A Columbus.
With Huff playing through the final season of his contract, first base could be wide open next spring. Aubrey may provide one option, as will fellow first-round draftee Brandon Snyder.
Aubrey Huff contributed to a potential game-changing rally on Sunday, when he pegged a line drive off the Green Monster with no outs and decided to stay at first base. Huff, who moved Nick Markakis to third on the play, thought the ball was hit too hard to advance.
Baltimore ended up advancing to second on a run-scoring ground ball, but then the game ended on a fly ball to right field and a strikeout by pinch-hitter Gregg Zaun. And if he had to do it all over again, Huff said he would still have stayed put at first base.
“We had no outs. I don’t want to take a chance right there because if he does make a good throw, I’m dead meat,” said Huff. “[First-base coach John Shelby] held me up at first. I was probably not going to go anyway because I hit it so hard off the wall. Normally, those balls are singles anyway unless you really fly. And I don’t fly. In that situation, you don’t want to make the first out at second. I figured we’d take our chances there.”
Baltimore manager Dave Trembley confirmed a long-standing hunch on Tuesday, when he stated that center fielder Adam Jones will likely bat out of the second spot in the order. Trembley likes Jones there to play as another speed threat behind leadoff man Brian Roberts and as a righty bat before the lefty tandem of Nick Markakis and Aubrey Huff.
And if Jones bats second, much of the rest of the order appears to be set. Melvin Mora will likely bat fifth, in between Huff and designated hitter Luke Scott. The bottom three slots will be filled by Gregg Zaun, Felix Pie and Cesar Izturis — likely in that order.
Score one for Aubrey Huff, prognosticator. Huff, who faced former teammate Daniel Cabrera for the first time on Friday, has often predicted how the confrontation would go. He’s told many people, Cabrera included, that he planned to walk and then steal on the first pitch.
And then Huff, no noted speed demon, did exactly that. The reigning Silver Slugger Award-winner drew a first-inning walk on Cabrera and then slid in easily feet-first to second base. Cabrera went on to walk the next batter, looking as rattled as he ever did in Baltimore.
“It was funny, cause I always told Cabby every night on the plane, ‘If I ever face you, I’m going to stand there, walk and steal on the first pitch,’ ” said Huff. “If I walked, there was no doubt in my mind I was going to steal whether I’d be safe or out. A good throw would’ve killed me.”
Cabrera wound up escaping the jam with a strikeout and a diving play by left fielder Roger Bernadina. Bernadina made another highlight reel caliber play in the second, and Cabrera wound up stranding four runners in scoring position before exiting the game.
Aubrey Huff will be recognized by his alma mater, the University of Miami, for a stellar college career on Friday night. Huff, who played two seasons for the Hurricanes, will be feted on the field Friday night and inducted into the school’s Sports Hall of Fame later this year.
Huff, who played with current big-leaguers Pat Burrell and Jason Michaels at Miami, will be greeted on field by coach Jim Morris. Burrell will also be on hand to celebrate with Huff, who set a school record with 95 RBIs and was named first-team All-American in 1998.
Huff’s .400 career batting average is the second-best at Miami, and his .719 slugging percentage is the third-best in school history. Baltimore manager Dave Trembley said the honor is richly deserved and that he’s glad Huff will be on hand to hear the cheers.
“I remember when he came out of college,” he said. “I was managing in the [Double-A] Southern League at the time. He’s had a nice career and is coming off a big season. We’re looking for a bigger one from him this year. I’m sure it’s a thrill for him and quite an honor.”
Aubrey Huff strode into camp Wednesday and provided an entertaining interview with the local beat crew in which he discussed the pressure to repeat last season’s success, his offseason workout regimen and how difficult it might be to play without a contract for 2010.
Huff, Baltimore’s cleanup hitter, said he’s looking forward to playing first base and warming to his new city as a potential long-term destination. He said he hasn’t heard anything about a potential contract extension but doesn’t think it will affect his play.
Perhaps the funniest moment of the discourse came when one reporter asked Huff about new teammate Ty Wigginton, who played with the slugger in Tampa Bay and just missed him in Houston. “He’s my fat male stalker,” Huff said of Wigginton.